## Did the Wizard cheat the Scarecrow?

February 13, 2012 Leave a comment

It’s that time of year – the time of year I start talking about right triangles and the world-famous Pythagorean Theorem. And, what discussion of the Pythagorean Theorem would be complete without telling my students about one the most important blunders in the “mathematical history” of Hollywood?

For those of you who may not know what I am talking about, you have to go back to 1939, to one of the most popular movies of all time, *The Wizard of Oz*. If you remember the end of the movie, then you remember when the Scarecrow finally gets what he always wanted, a brain. He is so excited to use his new brain, he decides to recite the Pythagorean Theorem. The problem is he gets it wrong, completely wrong. Below is his infamous statement:

“The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side.”

Hmm … is he even trying to state the Pythagorean Theorem? Because, if he isn’t, he was cheated far worse than I thought!

Not to be outdone by the Scarecrow, Homer Simpson repeats the infamous line in an episode of *The Simpsons* after finding a pair of glasses in a toilet. No sooner does he state it then someone tells him that it is for “a right triangle, you idiot!” While this is closer to the real thing, it still isn’t quite there.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how much I like “pseudo math” – the kind that looks like it is somehow important but, in reality, is nothing more than random mathematical symbols on the screen or page. Well, here is a classic example of just that. And, as I said before, I will take any kind of math, real or otherwise, as long as people are being exposed to it.